Worldwide digital game games sales in December 2016 grew to $7.6 billion, up 10 percent from December 2015, according to market researcher SuperData Research.
By contrast, retail game sales in certain parts of the world hit their worst levels in two decades. In the U.S., retail game sales fell 16 percent during the month of December, which is normally the strongest time of the year for game sales.
Digital sales of console games were above $1 billion for the first time, up 16 percent from a year ago. Game downloads were up 21 percent. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was the No. 1 game in December 2016, but sales of that game were 23 percent lower than sales of last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III in December 2015. Infinite Warfare sales were up only 6 percent from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in 2014. But the decline in raw numbers of units was offset by a rise in deluxe edition sales, as Activision sold a deluxe edition for a higher price with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered.
Another much-talked about game, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, failed to break into the top 10 of mobile games in terms of revenues in December. That signals an uphill battle for that premium-priced mobile title, SuperData said.
Grand Theft Auto V ended the year on a strong note. GTA V Online may have had its busiest quarter yet in terms of significant downloadable content (DLC) updates. The Import/Export update in December was particularly well received and led to a 36 percent month-over-month increase in additional content spending. Monthly active users in December were also the highest they’ve been in all of 2016.
With Super Mario Run, Nintendo shows it still doesn’t get the modern market, SuperData said. Super Mario Run may have collected a third of Pokemon Go’s total downloads, but Mario made less than a fifth of Pokemon’s total revenue when comparing launch months.
The exclusivity to the iOS platform (until March) contributed to a truncated launch. However, the combination of a relatively large $10 full game price tag in a largely free-to-play ecosystem, and no plans for microtransactions, indicates that Nintendo doesn’t know what it’s doing, SuperData said.
In the US, this shift toward digital has fundamentally changed the games landscape, evidenced in the dour outlook for retailers like GameStop, whose stock price has fallen 28 percent from its highest point in 2016.
Globally, the total digital market grew 10 percent, in which almost every individual segment saw year-over-year growth. The mobile segment continues to lead the market in terms of total digital revenue, increasing 11 percent, to its highest point ever. Free-to-play games continue to grow year-over-year, rising 7 percent, on the backs of League of Legends, Crossfire, and Dungeon Fighter Online.
Top selling digital titles by category, December 2016
Reporting period 12/1/2016-12/31/2016
1. League of Legends
3. Dungeon Fighter Online
4. World of Warcraft
6. World of Tanks
7. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
8. Battlefield 1
9. DOTA 2
10. Fantasy Westward Journey Online II
1. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
2. Battlefield 1
3. FIFA 17
4. Grand Theft Auto V
5. Final Fantasy XV
6. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
7. NBA 2K17
8. Star Wars Battlefront
9. Madden NFL 17
10. Watch Dogs 2
1. Clash Royale
2. Monster Strike
3. Clash of Clans
4. Pokémon GO
5. Mobile Strike
6. King of Glory
7. Fantasy Westward Journey
8. Fate/Grand Order
9. Puzzle & Dragons
10. Candy Crush Saga